reminisce: pauline elevaso
practice my English. My last culture shock, the one that I still carry with me heavily in my heart to this day, is food. My mom used to pack me baon every day and my favorite was Tender Juicy Hot Dog with kanin and a little drizzle of Knorr. On my first day of school, I opened my lunch container and received the most disgusted reactions ever: “Ew, why is your hot dog red?!” and “That smells”. I know that’s why I stopped bringing packed lunches to school until I was in community college, ten years later. Before my mom and I left the Philippines, she told me we were doing this so that I could have a better future. I believed her then and I still believe her. She sacrificed so much for me to be here: family, better jobs… I am extremely privileged to be where I am today and to be receiving an education in a developed country. I think that having a firsthand experience of being raised in the Philippines has taught me a lot about hardwork, perseverance, and compassion. The life I lead as a Filipina immigrant is different from the experience that many Filipinx-Americans have. For one, my language is something that I hold sacred and constantly practice. I also have a sense of urgency to help my kababayans in multiple ways, including raising awareness for ethnic studies, Filipinx history, and diaspora. I also think that I carry with me a different kind of shame: losing a part of myself in order to fit in. This is not just language or food or other ritual aspects of culture, but a big part of what I have lost is family. Once I moved to the US, I barely had contact with my grandparents, titas and titos, my pinsan - they were all still in the Philippines. My parents tried to raise me with Filipinx values but also undermining that by stressing American values. Going home is also a loss because everything I grew up with is either gone or so different to a point that I no longer recognize it. I have a foot in between two worlds and I am still learning to cope with that to this day and I have recognized that I can never fully be “in” in either world.
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